I’m done with my Christmas shopping

Yes, that’s right. I’m done. In fact, I have been for quite a while. I realize it’s only October. I’ve been done since sometime in June. Even more, things are already wrapped. Want to know how? Or why?

We all get catalogs in the mail (at least, everyone I know does) – and we also get ads via email. Usually I delete the latter and recycle the former and ignore it all. But sometime in April or May I decided I would start going through the catalogs and marking items that might be good gifts.

today’s haul of catalogs…

Then one weekend I sat with all the catalogs and made some decisions. To keep it all organized, I created a spreadsheet – I’ve been doing this for several years so I have a decent system of color coding on the spreadsheet that works for me:

You see that I can easily keep track of how much I’ve spent, where thing are coming from (I keep all the email related to order confirmations and shipping notices in a single folder) and what the status is. When items arrive, I go ahead and wrap them (I have a bin of wrapping paper in a closet where it’s easy to get to). Then into a closet everything goes:

this year’s loot for my family

Now, I am not known for my lovely giftwrapping – in fact it’s quite the opposite. Also, I don’t do bows so that everything can stack for storage. And nametags can fall off, so I don’t use those either. Instead, I write on the tape who the package is for (and any instructions like “1 of 2” in case there are related packages that should be opened in a particular order).

seeing this will drive my mother nuts.

I used a label maker in the past, but realized this year a Sharpie on the tape was faster and simpler.

Now after Thanksgiving when I put up the tree I just pull out the packages and put them under the tree and I’m all set. The beauty is I have no stress, I don’t over-spend because I’m keeping track, and by the time things are being opened I have forgotten what’s in them so it’s just as much a surprise for me!

I also go ahead and buy birthday presents at the same time if I see something and I’m done with Christmas presents. I realize this isn’t for everyone, but it works for me and it makes the vacation I take during the holiday season much more relaxing. Hopefully something in this will work for you and take some holiday stress out of your life. Enjoy!

5 tips for making to-do lists

I am an unabashed fan of lists. I like to count things, and I like to see visible progress of my activity by marking things off. Making lists helps me organize my thoughts, keeps me motivated, and helps me to make sure I carve out the time I need. Here are my top tips for lists:

1. keep items clean

This means that “edge lawn” and “mow lawn” are two different items on a list. They are separate tasks that can be done independently and require different tools. I like to keep the items on my list simple. If I’m going to be pruning a variety of plants, I list them separately – this also means if I don’t get to one of them the whole item isn’t left un-done.

2. don’t worry about the order

I make a list as items occur to me. I don’t order them in the order in which I plan to do them because plans change. I can do any item on the list in any order and mark it off.

3. consider groups or sub-lists

This may seem a little counter to #2, but stay with me. I have a front yard and a back yard. The back yard has a pond. The items related to the pond are distinct – so I sometimes make sub-lists of things that are in the house (“wash towels”) the back yard (“treat for algae”) and the front yard (“edge lawn”). By having them in groups, when I finish a sublist I get the joy of marking the whole sub-list done – and I stop thinking about tasks that involve that area. I don’t worry about ordering things in the sub-list.

4. include things you want to do, not just things you need to do

I put “take walk” on my list. I put “ride bike” on my list. Do these things accomplish cleaning my kitchen or making sure I have clothes to wear? No. But they sure make me happy and they are as much of a priority to me as mowing the lawn. By putting them on the list, they become equally weighted to all the other things I plan to do, and not expendable. If you want to put “relax with a book” on your list, you should do so!

5. feel free to make your own rules

Do you want to put “make list” on your list and mark it off when done? Do it! Do you want to add something to your list that you did but wasn’t on it just so you can mark it off? Do it! This is about tracking what you want to get done AND about keeping you motivated. I add things to the list during the day as they come to me and sometimes I add something I already did because it was a big deal to me and I want to celebrate it in my own personal way. Whatever keeps you motivated to get things done and feel good works for me.

Do you have a tip about making lists and keeping organized? Share it in the comments!